Welcome to MAUMALOG

Words about writing…with writers
In this month’s newsletter, us lucky ducks are joined by the creative director of Imaginary Authors, a literary perfumery. What does perfume have to do with this haunting photo here? Read on!
PLATFORM 21: Saul Melman, Best of All Possible Worlds
I live in the middle of the woods, so when the holidays roll around, I start to develop, well—feelings—about the pressure to find gifts. There’s already a lot of “stuff” in the world; does my husband really need a pistachio pedestal to show him that I care? I’m trying to focus on the giving of experiences this year alongside some actual gifts: memories last a long time and they don’t come with excess packaging! Recently, my family visited the deCordova sculpture park in Lincoln, Massachusetts and I particularly enjoyed this exhibit from Saul Melman in which he arranged 8 vacuum molded casts of doors in the exact configuration of his Brooklyn apartment. This was a nice gift for us, especially as we had our young daughter along—I love watching her come to terms with what art is and does. Does art make a good gift? Does perfume? Let us ask Ashod!
Interview with Ashod Simonian
Ashod Simonian is a creative director and co-owner of the niche perfume house, Imaginary Authors and the activist nail polish, Claws Out. A dedicated writer, Ashod has a book about his adventures in the Pacific Northwest co-authored by his wife forthcoming from Sasquatch in 2021, and his Polaroid book Real Fun about his time touring with indie rock bands came out with Picture Box in 2007.
There is an alchemy to good gift-giving. What is this magic potion?
For me, it’s equal parts perceptiveness and shock. Something they never saw coming that says, “I see you.”

A lot of authors (myself included!) feel stumped when it comes time to thank their editors, agents, blurbers… What are some of your favorite literary gifts that won’t break a writer’s bank?

My go-to quick gift is a thoughtful thrift store knick-knack. I have a hard time supporting Amazon or perpetuating more unnecessary waste in the world. It feels good to rescue the dopey ceramic donkey and fill its cart with baby cactus. A real author will also provide the donkey’s whole backstory as part of the gift.

You are part-owner of a perfume company. Talk to us about scent. Is it appropriate to give a new scent to someone for the holidays? How can you figure out what kind of scent a person will like?

This is a tricky one! Generally, I’d say this is a terrible idea but at Imaginary Authors we intentionally pile on a lot of story so you can make an informed decision based on your loved ones interests (rather than just shopping their favorite scent). That said, our Short Story Collection, a sampling of 8 different fragrances is a fun way to explore our whole bookshelf. The 2ml bottles come in a book-shaped box with bookmarks that tell a bit of the story of each sample. We are firm believers in wearing different fragrances for different occasions and different moods so having options is key. The idea of a signature scent is like committing to only one specific bottle of wine. Even if it’s amazing, it’ll get a little boring over time.

An image from Ashod’s book Real Fun

Storytelling is such a big part of both your perfume and nail polish company. Can you talk us through the role of storytelling in branding and marketing?

People love a good story. It’s as simple as that. Stories are what connect us. It’s ironic that, as authors, we sequester ourselves away for years at a time so that one day we might emerge with something that connects us to others. When I started these brands I may have naively thought (as some authors do), here’s a fun way to make money but what I’ve learned is I just crave connection. I want to make something and I want people to fall in love with that thing and, through that, I probably want them to fall in love with me so that in return I can fall in love with them and together we can fill the whole world with love and no one will ever feel sad or alone. Is that silly?

Somewhere along the way big brands realized this was a thing that could be capitalized upon and some very gross and manipulative (and successful!) marketing has come of it but what can one do? I just try to stay in my lane and make sure everything I touch is soulful and pure of heart and hopefully that keeps me connected.

Thank you for joining us, Ashod! And happy holidays.
What I’m excited about this month:
The NY launch for BEFORE AND AFTER THE BOOK DEAL at Powerhouse arena! Please join us on January 9th at 7pm if you can– we’re going to have a panel of publishing rockstars and it’s going to be so much fun.
The collaborative retreat I run, The Cabins, is open for applications! We only take 9 people a session so be an early bird! We are also open for donations if you are in a giving mood—you can even sponsor a scholarship so that a deserving artist can attend. It isn’t just for writers!
On the perfume front, I’m thrilled to have been a collaborator behind the new luxury perfume brand Maison d’Etto. I named it! Hooray for the power (and the delicious smell) of words!
Lit Bytes!

What I’m loving now: One Story magazine has a holiday offer going: an annual subscription is only $21 a year! One beautiful short story mailed to you (or someone you love) every month—is that a great gift idea or what?

What I’m reading now: A galley of Holly Whitaker’s takedown of alcohol as patriarchy.
What I’m reading next: this debut about a teenager struggling with mental illness by Juliet Escoria.

I’ll be going on a national tour and teaching classes across the country.

Keep up with tour dates and class information here!

More info on workshops and all other events on courtneymaum.com

See you out there in lit land! Remember that books make an awfully nice gift!
Visit my local Oblong Books and Music for signed, personalized copies of any of my books!